The Great Moon Hoax
Collaboration with Casey McGuire
The Great Moon Hoax: Science and the Recreation of the Artificial merges science and art by exploring the complicated relationships between observation, representation, and understanding. This collaboration springs out of McGuire and Schoon’s individual research that address different aspects of the real, the artificial, and unattainable.
These images focus on early astronomical photographic attempts at rendering visible, yet unattainable objects on the moon’s surface. The quest to see these unattainable objects became a popular obsession after fantastical images depicting the moon were published with a series of articles in the New York Sun in 1835. These articles later known as “The Great Moon Hoax” along with Sir John Herschel’s photographic model: “Lunar Copernicus Crater” of 1842 and James Nasmyth’s illustrative book: “The Moon: Considered as a Planet, a World, and a Satellite” of 1847 all helped to expanded scientific curiosity beyond the limits of human vision and the possibilities of the scientific photograph. These images, despite their reliance upon drawings or models for representation, played upon the popular belief that photographs have an undeniable authenticity and are representative of the “the real”.
The images depicted in The Great Moon Hoax: Science and the Recreation of the Artificial were realized through the creation of three-dimensional sculptures for the purposes of making photographic prints. At times referencing lunar models, Apollo era images, and telescopic astrophotography, this body of work bridges a gap between historic and modern modes of scientific representation while re-contextualizing and bringing them into a contemporary vernacular. The images of the sculptures are presented using the historic salt print process developed by scientist William Henry Fox Talbot in 1835 and the cyanotype process developed by Sir John Herschel in 1842. The transformation of sculpture to salt prints provides a contextualization of photography’s ability to render convincing, useful, yet misleading scientific imagery. In their presentation, the images encourage the viewer to take a closer look at science, the imagery that represents it, and how it impacts popular understanding.